Lewis Grabban

Wayne Rooney prepares for Derby County debut
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What are reasonable expectations as Rooney prepares for Derby County debut?

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Oh, there are so many ways this could go…

Wayne Rooney is set to debut for Derby County on Wednesday, his first appearance in the Football League Championship following 491 Premier League appearances and 50 more in MLS.

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Throw in 187 more runs in the cups of Europe, and you’ve got a pretty good handle on why manager Phillip Cocu isn’t going to hesitate to give Rooney a chance to shine early and often.

“If a player with the qualities, career and the experience of Rooney (is available) you have to be very happy and glad he is here, so I don’t need a suspension to consider him in the first XI to be honest,” Cocu said.

Cocu says expectations should be lowered for the 34-year-old Rooney at the start of his tenure at Pride Park. From The Derby Telegraph:

“He’s fit, he can start but he will need a few games. Expectation will be high when he starts playing but we have to give him a few games to build up his minutes and get in the team. So maybe not perfect from the start, but it’s important he will get in the team as soon as possible so we get a certain shape in our team.”

Derby sits 17th in the Championship with 30 points, nine clear of the bottom three and nine back from the playoff places. Rooney joined the club in late November but wasn’t eligible to play for the side until January.

So what should we expect from Rooney?

Most former MLS players’ performances in the Championship are difficult to compare to Rooney. There’s the obvious trouble given he enters with one of the best resumes in English history. And usually the move is represented by youngsters, like Jack Harrison and DeAndre Yedlin or MLS bit players going home (often to levels below England).

Rooney was a force in Major League Soccer, no doubt, so it’s reasonable to expect he’ll deliver some of the goods at Derby. Thirty-two year old Steven Fletcher has 12 goals this season, Lewis Grabban (31) has 11, and that both Pablo Hernandez (34) and Lukas Jutkiewicz (30) put up double-digits in goals and assists last season.

No, this isn’t about whether Rooney will produce offense, or even if he’ll be able to stymy the red mist that saw him sent off twice at DC United. Admittedly, the last point is a bit more of a concern than the first given the fine margins in the Championship.

Promotion from the Championship would be a surprise and unexpected notch in Rooney’s belt. Not a lot of players have turned that trick having already minted their legend status.

Our prediction: Rooney helps the Rams to a bunch of wins and some decent additions in the January window to boot. He pitches in 8-10 goals and a half-dozen assists while the Rams make it to the playoffs. Anything after that is impossible to guarantee, which is why the Rams would’ve been better served not sitting 21 points off leaders Leeds United and West Brom.

But he is where he is, and he’s done more with less. And at the very least, this should be a lot of fun.

League Cup wrap: Burton Albion, Bournemouth advance

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Burton Albion is a League Cup quarterfinalist for the first time.

Relegated from the Championship last season and a Conference team as recently as 2009, the Brewers built a lead and held on Tuesday to make the final eight of the EFL Cup.

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It was one of two matches played Tuesday, as Leicester City and Southampton was postponed following the tragic death of their owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium last Saturday.

Bournemouth 2-1 Norwich City

Junior Stanislas gave the Cherries a first half lead, and the Canaries’ equalizer was answered by Steve Cook within two minutes when the defender restored Bournemouth’s advantage at the Vitality Stadium.

The Cherries avoided the fate of Cardiff City, depriving Norwich City a second Premier League upset of the tournament.

Burton Albion 3-2 Nottingham Forest

Saidy Janko and Scott Fraser helped the hosts build a 2-0 lead after a scoreless first half, and Jake Hesketh answered Lewis Grabban‘s goal to restore to two-goal lead with eight minutes to play. Andrew Appiah scored in the first minute of stoppage time, but it wasn’t a prelude to an equalizer.

The two sides had a moment of silence for Srivaddhanaprabha before the match.

Season Preview: Can Bournemouth build on last season?

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It’s been a quiet summer in the south of England.

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Coming off a 12th-place finish in last year’s Premier League season, manager Eddie Howe has been patient in the transfer market, instead preferring to work with the players already at his disposal. Now in the club’s fourth-straight season in the Premier League, Howe has developed a side that plays free-flowing soccer at times as well as having a strong defense, with some players catching the eye of bigger clubs.

Lewis Cook is a Tottenham transfer target and with Bournemouth reportedly ready to break its transfer record to sign Colombian Jefferson Lerma, Cook could be allowed to leave. With two more friendly matches before the start of the season, Howe could put the finishing touches on his squad ahead of the August 9 deadline, as Bournemouth looks to rebound from a slightly disappointing season last year.

One good piece of news for U.S. Men’s National Team fans…Emerson Hyndman has been a full participant in Bournemouth’s preseason training and this may be his year to break into the first team for good.


Bournemouth will finish in the top ten because….Lerma, Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic and Harry Arter play at the level that they have shown in flashes in the past. Although Bournemouth is a small club, the amount of talent on the books is impressive and if the team gels together and finds goals from new sources (with Benik Afobe off to Wolverhampton), the team can certainly push into mid-table territory, if not even challenge for the Europa League.

Bournemouth will barely survive relegation because…Jermain Defoe, who turns 36-years old in October, can’t be relied on anymore. Callum Wilson and Joshua King continue to struggle in front of net and while the defense is solid, it’s no match for the top-6 clubs. Bournemouth is in the thick of the relegation struggle but Howe manages to guide his team to safety, but only just. The lack of major signings in the summer comes back to haunt Howe, especially if the club can’t get the Lerma signing over the finish line.


Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit

——————–Begovic———————–

—–Francis——–S. Cook————–Ake——

-Fraser—–L. Cook———-Gosling——–Daniels–

–Arter————–Wilson———–Mousset—

Transfers In: David Brooks (Sheffield United, $13 million), Diego Rico (Leganes, $14 million)

Transfers Out: Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton, $10 million), Max Gradel (Toulouse, undisclosed), Adam Federici (Stoke City, undisclosed), Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: C+. It’s hard to tell so far how the new signings Brooks and Rico will do in the Premier League, with Brooks coming from the Championship and Rico from a small club in La Liga. The departures won’t hurt the club very much but if Bournemouth want to push on from where it finished last year, the current signings may not have been enough. Especially if the team loses Lewis Cook. 

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,)

Star player: Asmir Begovic: The Canadian-raised Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper has literally saved many points for Bournemouth since joining in 2017. If Bournemouth pushes into the top ten again, it will be thanks to strong goalkeeping from Begovic. 

Coaches’ Corner: With Arsene Wenger now gone, Howe is currently the longest-serving manager with his club in the Premier League. The former Bournemouth defender has drawn praise from across the world for keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League and playing an exciting brand of soccer. At times over the last three seasons, Bournemouth didn’t back down from the Premier League giants, and against other clubs lower in the table, the team was able to express itself more freely and control possession. Howe has done a terrific job, but it will be interesting to see if he’s taken Bournemouth as high as it can go, or if he can lead the club to new heights. 

PST predicts: We predict that Bournemouth will again be fighting relegation. As things stand, the club is not much improved since last season and other than the two new signings, – and potentially others before the transfer window shuts – the squad doesn’t seem like it’s improved more than the one that recorded just 44 points last season. There’s plenty of pressure on Howe to keep the team in the Premier League this season and return the club to the top ten.

Aston Villa holds off Boro, moves onto playoff final

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Playoff finals are old hat for Steve Bruce, but a new event for Aston Villa.

The Birmingham club beat Middlesbrough 1-0 over two legs, the second a 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Tuesday, to advance to meet Fulham in the Championship Playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 26.

Stewart Downing‘s 89th minute free kick off the cross bar was Boro’s only sniff of the goal.

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Villa is in just its third season outside of the English top flight since 1975, though Bruce managed Hull City and Birmingham City to the Premier League through the playoffs.

Boro scored plenty under Tony Pulis in the season, but it was a case of traditional Pulis stats in the playoffs. The notoriously stingy manager saw his side manage just two shots on target over two legs, with both coming in the home leg.

Lewis Grabban of Villa had the two best scoring chances of the match, but Darren Randolph made a pair of saves.

Villa won the first leg on a Jack Grealish to Mile Jedinak goal.

On Monday, Fulham flipped a first leg deficit to Derby County on its ear to clinch its space at Wembley.

Championship playoff primer: Who’s coming up?

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The story lines for the 2017-18 Football League Championship playoffs are many.

Aston Villa is looking to return to the Premier League, where it was a mainstay for so long, while Fulham competed in the Europa League within the past decade.

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Derby County has been knocking on the door to return to the top flight on a near annual basis, while Middlesbrough is bidding to go one-and-done in the second tier.

So here’s a bit of a cheat sheet ahead of the weekend’s semifinal first legs, as only one of the quartet can joins Wolves and Cardiff City as promoted sides.

Schedule

Derby County vs. Fulham — 2:45 p.m. ET Friday

Middlesbrough vs. Aston Villa — 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday

Fulham vs. Derby County — 2:45 p.m. May 14

Aston Villa vs. Middlesbrough — 2:45 p.m. May 15

Top scorers

Derby County – Matej Vydra, 21 goals

Aston Villa – Lewis Grabban, 20

Fulham – Ryan Sessegnon, 15

Middlesbrough – Britt Assombalonga, 15

History

Last Premier League season
Middlesbrough 2016-17
Aston Villa 2015-16
Fulham 2013-14
Derby County 2007-08

American connections
Fulham has two Americans on its current roster: mainstay defender Tim Ream and young midfielder Luca de la Torre. Some of the U.S. most recognizable names have played for Fulham, including Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, and Kasey Keller. Eddie Johnson, Eddie Lewis, and Emerson Hyndman have also played for the team once nicknamed Fulhamerica.

Aston Villa was the long time home of USMNT backstop Brad Guzan, and Eric Lichaj also spent a good period of time in Birmingham. Michael Bradley and Brad Friedel also played for Villa.

Derby County‘s American alums include Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Lewis, and Ian Feuer.

Middlesbrough had Guzan on the squad for its 2016-17 relegation campaign.

Best top flight finish
Aston Villa – 7 top flight titles
Derby County – 2 top flight titles
Middlesbrough – 3rd place in 1913-14
Fulham – 7th place in 2008-09